Think about it
By Raïssa Robles
When I say “informed”, I mean informed as a journalist who has been in the news business for several decades now and who draws on this well-spring of experience.
Today’s piece is meant to launch what I would call my online “column” like those you often read in traditional newspapers. It will be a grab bag of data about events, what people say, my take on what’s happening, and verified gossip.
The title “Think about it” was suggested to me by my hubby Alan. I think it’s really what this column is about. I want it to to draw the ever widening community now congregating around this blog to be part of the process of discovery of the truth behind events.
Let me now share with you one of the bits of info that I stumbled upon in the course of investigating Chief Justice Corona and his impeachment.
I have run this bit with one ex-banker and one senior banker. Both of them told me my conclusion was correct – that one more person, other than officials of PSB, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) and personnel fielded by the Anti-Money Laundering Council – also had access to Chief Justice Renato Corona’s bank records including his signature cards.
That person is, of course, Renato Corona himself.
At first a bit startled by my question, the senior banker of one of the largest universal banks thought about it and confirmed that as the client, Corona would have access to all the records that now seem to be floating around, pointing to the presence of peso and dollar deposits but containing entries that were not quite similar.
The ex-banker also said Corona had access to the same records.
The senior banker also said that as the client, Corona has to fill out a new signature card yearly, as required by Central Bank regulations. And of course he can ask to take a look at his signature cards anytime, the banker added.
To this day, no one – not a senator-judge nor a member of the prosecution – has asked how CJ Corona transacts with the banks where he has accounts.
The senior banker also told me something very interesting. He said that foreign banks in the Philippines are loath to deal with Filipino politicians whom they automatically classify as PEPs – Politically Exposed Persons. This was following the sad experience of Citibank with President Joseph Estrada who had stashed dollars in that bank.
Because of this, politicians can only go to local banks to open accounts.
The banker also confirmed that CJ Corona with his multi-million-peso accounts, would be classified as a “preferred client” and most probably be accorded the privileges of one.
Please recall that it was no less than the head of PCI-Equitable bank’s Trust Department, Clarissa Ocampo, who went to the bank’s high net worth client Joseph Estrada to obtain his signature for the signature card of the “Jose Velarde” account.
Because of all these snippets of info, my hubby Alan thought it would be interesting for the prosecution to ask PSB and Bank of the Philippine Islands the following questions:
[CORRECTION: My hubby read these questions and asked me to correct some of them under threat of an impeachment suit. I have since adjusted them.]
- How does CJ Corona transact with the bank? In person or through an intermediary?
- If Corona personally visits the bank, is there anyone detailed to attend to him specifically? After all, he is a preferred client. Who would that person be?
- Does CJ Corona maintain safety deposit boxes in the bank or in any other branch of the bank? (The ex-banker shared with me the info that from his experience, they had clients who stashed cash in their safety deposit boxes – cash that they did not want reflected in any bank statements.
- Does the bank branch where CJ Corona has his account have any CCTVs that would show his visits?
- When was the last time CJ Corona went to the bank?
- When did he or his wife last see his signature card? And has he filled up any new signature card? How many signature cards has he actually filled up in the course of his dealing with PSB Katipunan?
- Has any bank staffer or officer visited CJ Corona at home, in his Supreme Court office or elsewhere to conduct any banking activity with him?
- Have there been any large transfers or deposits made to any of his accounts in the past two years by anyone other than himself?
- In what form (cash or check) and when was the alleged Basa-Guidote money first deposited in CJ Corona’s bank accounts? Was the deposit in a lump sum or several checks in various dates? To whom was the check made out. If the original check from the City of Manila was made out to Cristina Corona, how could it have been deposited in an account held only in the name of CJ Corona?
- When Mrs Corona withdrew the alleged Basa-Guidote money from her husband’s accounts, was there a phone call from CJ Corona himself to anyone in PSB before, after or during the withdrawal?
- The bank manager said the withdrawals were made in the form of a manager’s check. Was this “pay to cash” or pay to WHOM?
- What time was PSB told that Cristina Corona was withdrawing a huge amount on December 12? And what time did she actually make the withdrawal? [Because the House of Representatives convened a caucus on the matter in the afternoon of December 12, a Monday, and impeached CJ Corona hours later that night.]
- Can the Philippine Clearing House Corporation, where checks in the entire local banking system are cleared, be asked about checks that were issued to CJ Corona and by CJ Corona?
- Has CJ Corona ever converted pesos to foreign currency?
* * *
Lawyers of CJ Corona have described as “unbelievable” the claim of former Quezon City congressman Jorge Banal that he merely found a xerox copy of Corona’s bank signature cards left at the gate of his house.
In other words, the lawyers think Banal is lying. They want to sue him for illegal possession of confidential bank documents.
Before they file any suit, the lawyers should probably run Banal’s claim by the man who has closely been helping them and their client. His name is Francisco “Kit” Tatad and seven years ago, he claimed he woke up one day and found a compact disc mailed to his house. In other words, also left at his gate.
Tatad’s claim is forever archived in a Time magazine report filed by the late Nelly Sindayen.
The report can be found here –
Here is the pertinent portion:
Francisco Tatad, a former Senator in the opposition camp, says he received two audiotapes from an anonymous source in the mail in May. He gave them to a lawyer, Alan Paguia, asking for legal advice on the conversations. Paguia, who worked in 2003 as an attorney for Arroyo’s predecessor Joseph Estrada, made a 32-minute condensed version. When the palace released its copy of the conversations (the Gary tape), Paguia started distributing the other version on CD. The lawyer says he wasn’t working on behalf of Estrada, but had his own reasons for spreading the CDs: in November 2003 the Supreme Court had suspended Paguia’s right to practice law for his repeated criticism of its approval of Arroyo’s taking over the presidency from Estrada.
The entire Time magazine report can be read by clicking here.
If you recall, then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s spokesman Ignacio Bunye made the same claim of finding a similar compact disc at his house.
It was Bunye who first made public the Garci tapes when he announced in a press conference that he had “two tapes.”
In his June 6, 2005 press conference, Bunye held up two compact audio discs and said that one was a genuine recording of Arroyo talking to a man surnamed “Ruado” – a staffmember of then Congressman Ignacio Arroyo. Bunye claimed that one recording was Arroyo talking to this Ruado. The other recording was “spliced” to make it appear that Arroyo was talking to a poll official.
When asked by reporters the source of the tapes, Bunye said that was “privileged communication”. Bunye said the tapes came from a woman who preferred to remain anonymous.
Again, a mysterious woman.
Why can’t it be a man next time?
* * *
It was while reading Nelly Sindayen’s snippet from Time magazine about Tatad that the question occurred to me – Has CJ Corona’s bank documents become like the Garci tapes, which had so many versions of the same thing?
Today a commenter to this blog named Maria seemed to be on the same wavelength as me. Maria wrote that the leak could have come from “a private person”, including possibly “a person inside Corona’s camp.”
But why would Corona himself or someone in his camp want to leak his own bank documents? What would that accomplish?
The only answer I can think of – and I’m not saying this is true or that the Corona camp did such a clever, clever thing – is to mess up the evidence so that these cannot at all be admitted in court as evidence.
This is just a thought. It’s within the realm of probability, but I don’t know whether it’s true. The only way to ascertain this is to ask about CJ Corona’s actions in relation to bank officers and his bank records during the period between December 2011 and up to today.